Marketers are jumping on the green-car movement and the gears are audibly grinding over what counts as a "hybrid vehicle."
First applied to small sedans emphasizing fuel economy, the term is now blithely used to encompass a vast array of trucks, SUVs and luxury cars that in some cases offer only modest fuel savings over traditional vehicles, some critics charge. (Wired News)
It should be a simple technical matter what qualifies as a "hybrid". Perhaps where the education needs to be is that a hybrid automobile is not necessarily efficient or "green". Driving an unnecessarily oversized SUV is never "green", no matter what technology it uses, because you could always save more resources by applying that same technology to a smaller, more modest automobile.
According to UCS, the upcoming 2007 Saturn Vue Green Line SUV along with the GMC Sierra and Chevy Silverado hybrids, make claims that are "hollow" and classify them as "mild hybrids" that should not be considered the same class of vehicles.
Nathanson said that while the Saturn Vue hybrid includes useful fuel-saving features such as deactivating cylinders when not in use and shutting off the engine while idling, a hybrid should include a battery with a minimum of 60 volts of power. By way of comparison, the Saturn hybrid's batteries (produced by Ovonics' subsidiary Cobasys) are rated at 36 volts, while the Toyota Camry hybrid includes 244-volt batteries.
While hybrid vehicles from Honda, Toyota, Ford and Lexus include battery packs that can recover substantial amounts of energy from the braking system (known as regenerative braking), the Saturn hybrid battery pack "doesn't have sufficient power to provide an assist to the engine," according to Nathanson.
For more information about Hybrids, you can go to the HybridCenter web site.